Since the pitch process is eating my lunch, I decided to work on something else.
I was looking at one of the writer’s forums tonight at the exercises. One of them is optimism and the other is a list of country music titles. The second one isn’t about country music, only using the lines to inspire a story.
I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the exercises. I think I will dust off Martha and Tilly, my two over-sexed old ladies, for the optimism exercise. For the other I think I will do Don’t Blink. Not sure why that title jumps out at me, but it does. Perhaps it’s because I’m working on a scene in Paladin, where she’s attacked by a man, threatening to cut her throat.
It sometimes surprises me what comes out of the writing exercises. Quite often they wind up being scenes I hadn’t planned at all. Such is the following scene.
This is a scene from Dragon Valley, following the death of Penroc. Her people are preparing to burn her body to keep the wraiths from turning her into one of them.
Maija slowed her horse to a walk and approached, followed by her guards. The center chariot was drawn by a perfectly matched pair of black dragons with brilliant blue underbellies. Their wings shimmered with iridescent hues of blues, black, purples and an almost peacock green color. The dragon on the near side shook his head, causing the heavily jeweled bridle to flash in the breaking daylight. The gold bridle was almost like a crown with ornate cheek pieces of finely wrought battle scenes. The dragon turned his head to watch her with intelligent, curious amber eyes. He snorted slightly, blowing tiny wisps of smoke from his nostrils.
The dragons were a bit larger than heavy chargers and all black except a gray one ridden by the nearest storm caller. All of them wore elaborate bridles of gold, heavily encrusted with jewels and fine work. Scenes of battles adorned their breastplates and cheek pieces on the bridles. Tassels of spun silver thread dangled from the bridles and saddles.
The storm callers all wore equally ornate dress armor, but she had no doubt it was substantial enough to protect them adequately even without the substantial magic wards. Even though the storm callers were in mortal form they were still over eight-feet tall. Her embattled guards looked like peasant children playing at war compared to them.
The ground trembled under her feet as her troops moved into position around the glen. She sighed heavily. Such a beautiful, peaceful place to be turned into a battleground.
The storm caller on the gray dragon dismounted and strode towards her. He struck his fist to his chest and bowed deeply.
“Sepha, Maija. My name is Alrich of the clan Ursel.”
She dismounted and inclined her head. “Commander. How can I help you?”
He smiled at her. “You are familiar with my rank.”
“I was married to a Norlander. He taught me some of your ways. I also know your clan is the elite guard among the storm callers.”
He nodded and smiled again. His features were handsome to the point of reminding her of statues of the Norlander gods. His strawberry blonde hair was bound by a circlet of intricately woven strands of gold, platinum and a reddish metal she was unfamiliar with. His eyes were the color of a winter sky, gray and soft as felt, but she knew they could also turn cold and hard at a moment’s notice. He was clean shaven, unlike the remainder of his men. A scar trailed white and jagged from his left cheekbone to his jaw, breaking the tanned, otherwise flawless, face.
“We have come for Penroc, Sepha. Will you ask your men to stand down?”
His form began to shimmer and shrink until he was only slightly over six feet tall.
“Thank you,” she said, lowering her gaze.
“Of course,” he replied, nodding politely.
“No offense, but Penroc is one of ours and I have no intention of turning her body over to you. The only way we can be sure she will not be turned is to destroy her body.”
“We would not allow her to be turned.”
“The only way we can be certain of that is to destroy her.”
The storm caller’s eyes narrowed slightly, turning cold. The lines around his mouth hardened as two furrows appeared between his eyes. “Surely you know she is a hero to the Norlanders. Would we allow her to be defiled?”
Maija noticed the storm callers stiffening slightly. The dragons sensed the change in their masters and began tossing their heads nervously. Their tails began to brush against the harness. Occasionally one would stomp with impatience or pop his tail on the ground with a loud thump.
“We will not give her up,” she replied.
Several guards nodded in agreement. A murmur went through the troops. The ones guarding Penroc raised their weapons.
“You will die for a body?”
“We have died for less.”
He walked over to the pyre and looked down at the body. “Penroc joined with our people against impossible odds to help defend them one awful day. She had no idea who they were, only that they had been ambushed by the treachery of the fel mages and their troops. Our prince would have fallen that day if not for your people.”
He turned to look at her. “Do you really think we would allow anything to happen to her body? Did your husband not teach you anything of our regard for our heroes?” He waved his arm around, motioning to his men. “Look you upon my people,” he said. “Surely you recognize an honor guard when you see one. Not only a Norlander honor guard, but one made up of storm callers. Do you have any idea how rare that is?”
“I’m sure it is, but you must understand my position. She is ours. Why would you wish to take her body?”
He reached down and stroked a strand of blonde hair from Penroc’s face. “Where we take her she will be honored. We will preserve her for all time so that people will know who she is. We do this to honor her and you. We owe her that.”
Maija drew her shoulders back. “I’m sure we will have many opportunities to die, but it will not be here. You may have her.”
She walked slowly to the pyre and put her hand on her friend’s arm as she said an ancient prayer of praise and protection. The storm callers dismounted and approached in formation. Two took the bridle and saddle lying across Penroc’s body. Four others carried the body to the center chariot and laid her gently inside.
“You have done the right thing, Maija,” Ulrich said. “Penroc will be cared for and honored.”
“I know she will,” she replied as she watched the storm callers remount.
“Your men will find brief respite in the forest today. The heavens will weep and cry out for Penroc when we leave. Rest while you may, your battle is not yet won.”